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Janibek Alimkhanuly is still not particularly well known to anyone other than the most hardcore boxing fans, but there’s a pretty good chance he’s the best middleweight in the world.

WBA champion Erislandy Lara is 40 years old and WBC champion Jermall Charlo hasn’t fought in nearly two years. Given that the IBF title is vacant, Alimkhanuly likely sits atop the class.

He looked like a star Saturday in Stockton, California, when he decimated Montreal’s Steven Butler in the second round in their bout for Alimkhanuly’s WBO championship.

Referee Jack Reiss gave Butler an extraordinarily long leash, and Butler went down three times in the seconds before Reiss stopped it. It was a blistering left uppercut and a series of left hands behind it that put Butler down for the first time and, for all intents and purposes, ended the fight.

Butler got up on extremely shaky legs but Reiss allowed him to go on. Twice more, Alimkhanuly punished him and dropped him before Reiss had seen enough and mercifully halted it.

Alimkhanuly, who is now 14-0 with nine knockouts, shot high in his post-fight interview, calling out Charlo as well as Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez has other things in front of him, but if Charlo decides to return, a fight with Alimkhanuly would be fascinating.

“Champions and the boxing superstars, where are you?” Janibek said after putting Butler away. “I’m waiting. Let’s fight.”

He didn’t get much of a fight from Butler. Alimkhanuly’s trainer, the legendary Buddy McGirt, gave him astute advice after the first round. He told Alimkhanuly to close the distance and use his feet to get inside. Alimkhanuly did as instructed and scored an impressive win.

His countryman from Kazakhstan, Gennadiy Golovkin, may be Alimkhanuly’s biggest competition as top middleweight in the world now, though there are plenty of signs Golovkin may be set to walk away from the game.

Alimkhanuly is long, rangy, a southpaw and powerful, so he’s going to be a tough out for anyone. Butler reminded no one of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but it was nonetheless an impressive performance.

“I am the middleweight king,” Alimkhanuly said. “Let’s go: Fight. Top Rank, who is next? Who is next?”

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